With a zone, that’s supposed to take care of itself.
Led by Monterio Burchfield’s 27 points and 20 rebounds, Madison County’s boys outscored Anniston 52-44 in the paint en route to an 80-66 victory in Tuesday’s Class 4A semifinals in the Northeast Regional in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Madison County (26-4) advanced to Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. regional final against Guntersville, which beat Munford 67-44 on Tuesday. Anniston finished its season 17-14.
Much of Anniston’s paint points came on dribble drives.
Madison Academy did it on putbacks (12 second-chance points) and transition (14 points on the break), beating Anniston back almost with impunity.
The other 26 points in the paint came on flash-and-pass plays. At times, it seemed as though Anniston’s interior defense wasn’t home.
Anniston coach Schuessler Ware blamed poor execution and communication.
“We had someone that didn’t do his job like he should have,” he said. “You have to protect the middle. That’s something we’ve been working on.
“We’ve been telling him, don’t worry about the other people inside. Do your job and box out. We’ve got to close it out and that’s something we didn’t do.”
Madison County did most of its damage in the second half, outscoring Anniston 36-24 in the paint after halftime and 10-2 on the break.
“We talked about, especially at halftime, getting the ball more in the middle,” Madison County coach Bubba Webster said. “If we could penetrate a little bit, bring the defense up and pitch it there.
“We were penetrating and dumping and sharing the ball real well.”
Burchfield was the catalyst, often starting the break after rebounds. He had 13 rebounds on the defensive end.
He also had several putbacks and finishes off of passes through the heart of Anniston’s zone.
Burchfield punctuated his night by hitting a nearly 60-foot shot from just in front of the scorer’s table at the third-quarter buzzer. The shot gave Madison County a 54-42 lead and nearly matched a shot he hit against Columbia earlier this season.
Still, he did the rest of his damage a lot closer to the basket.
“We just had to find the open spots and find open people, basically, and share the ball really good,” he said.
Forward Tyrell Clary and center Seab Webster got in on the fun as well, each scoring 12 points. Their catching and scoring down low helped Madison County finish with 16 assists, one every two minutes in a 32-minute high school game.
The Tigers’ dominating second half was quite a shift from the first half, when Anniston seemed to have the flow offensively. The Bulldogs led 24-18 after the first quarter.
“The first half, we came out with a lot of intensity, and we were moving the ball,” said junior swingman Monquavious Frazier, who led Anniston with 18 points.
The scoring pace slowed down dramatically, as the teams combined for 13 points in the second quarter, but Anniston enjoyed a 29-26 lead at halftime.
“I felt we couldn’t play any better in the first half than what we did,” Ware said. “I don’t know what happened in the second half, why we came out so flat, but that was the reason why we lost.
“We didn’t come back and play hard like we did in the first half. We had them on the ropes, but it’s a four-quarter game.”
Quintavious Dobbins added 15 points for Anniston, and Quindarious Jackson had 12.
Anniston made its 13th regional appearance and sixth in seven years, losing in the semifinals for the first time since falling to Butler in 2007. The Bulldogs did it despite returning only one player who saw significant playing time a year ago, senior Mauriceco Massey.
Anniston won its last five games headed into the regional, including both Area 10 tourney games and a sub-regional victory over Jacksonville, and 11 of 13 overall.
“We’ve really grown tremendously from the beginning of the season,” Ware said. “If you look back at the beginning of the season, you never thought we’d be here.
“Once we found out we could play with the big boys and we started growing up, we could see there was a possibility we could be here.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.